Sunday, July 29, 2012

The “Rain Day Boys”

(By Candice Buchanan)

Before July 29th was a day of celebration, there was a day of honor and sacrifice; before a solemn plaque of names was placed on the armory wall, there was a youthful band of soldiers marching through those armory doors. The “Rain Day Boys” as they are affectionately known today compose 17 of the 53 Greene County lives lost in World War I. The connection of this particular group of soldiers to the date of our local holiday, they having made the ultimate sacrifice on July 29, 1918, provides an easy reason for us to remember them. And by recognizing these few on this day, we will hopefully be reminded of all the men and women who fought for us then and who fight for us today. AUTL_AN001_0004

In honor of July 29th and the anniversary of their last battle, the Rain Day Boys are remembered here. Click each name to view the more complete stories that are with them at their grave sites on Memory Medallions. Click through the Memory Medallion tabs to see photos, videos, and web links related to each soldier’s life. If you can help us to further these stories with additional photos or details, I’d love to hear from you.

Bert Buchanan – Born 2 May 1892, the fifth of ten children born to Charles and Catherine (Reese) Buchanan. Prior to enlistment he was employed by Charles Thompson. He was a member of the First Baptist Church, from which funeral services were held 8 August 1921.

Harold T. Carey – Born in 1896, a son of Thomas and Belle (Smith) Carey. Harold was a 1917 graduate of Waynesburg High School. His funeral services were held 7 August 1921 from the Presbyterian Church.

Hallie J. Closser – Born 14 February 1885, a son of James Wesley and Elazan (Garner) Closser. He became a successful farmer. Prior to WWI Hallie enlisted to fight for his country during the trouble with Mexico and served with Company K on the border in 1916. His funeral services were held 24 July 1921 from the First Baptist Church.

Harry Dunn – Born 15 January 1895, a son of Washington & Martha (Helt) Dunn. He was a member of the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Ruff Creek, from which funeral and burial services were held 25 July 1921.

John G. Duvall – Born 8 January 1897, a son of Cassandra Alice (Duvall) McNurlin. He was a student at Waynesburg High School and would have graduated in the class of 1918 if he had not joined the military. He survived July 29th, but died as a result of the wounds he received that day on 20 August 1918.

Floyd T. Hickman – Born 13 February 1896, the eldest of seven children born to Lindsey McClelland & Cora Lee (Fordyce) Hickman. Floyd graduated from Center Township High School in 1915, and from Waynesburg High School in 1916. He also attended Waynesburg College for one year before enlisting. His Memory Medallion includes the full text of his last letter home written 13 July 1918 from “somewhere in France.” Floyd’s parents waited so long for word of the return of their son home for burial that they became convinced he was missing. On 11 November 1921, when an unknown American soldier, killed in France, was buried at Arlington Cemetery, Lindsey and Cora traveled to attend the ceremony. They were convinced that this soldier was their son. However, a short time later Floyd’s grave in Europe was located and he was sent home to his family and buried at the family plot in Green Mount Cemetery.

Benjamin A. Manning – Born 22 July 1893, a son of John and Emma (Bare) Manning. He was an expert mechanic and for several years was employed by the Acklin Lumber Company of Waynesburg. He enlisted in Company K, 110th Infantry, when the trouble arose between the United States and Mexico in 1916 and he served on the border with the company, then a unit of the old "Fighting Tenth" Pennsylvania Regiment. He was the company mechanic and artificer while on the border, and continued to serve in this capacity during WWI.

Fred W. Marshall – Born 24 February 1897, a son of George W. & Mary Margaret (Bush) Marshall of Time. Fred was buried on 31 July 1921 following funeral services at the Union Valley Church. Fred's older brother, George Jr., was also killed in action in France on 17 August 1918. The brothers were their parents’ only sons. A special memorial to the brothers is located at the family gravesite in West Finley Cemetery. On the day the memorial was dedicated over 2,000 people attended the ceremony to remember the boys and others like them who had fallen in service to their country.

George T. McNeely – Born August 1899, a son of Simon Coen and Martha (Clark) McNeely, of Harveys. He was shot in the leg during the battle of July 29th, but refused to seek aid and stayed on the front line. He was never recovered. His name appears among the missing on a memorial wall in Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, Belleau, France.

Francis B. Moore – Born 25 March 1893, a son of William Arthur & Elizabeth (Guthrie) Moore. Francis was first hit in the leg by a machine gun bullet, but refused to go to the rear and remained with the company until later he was hit again and killed. His funeral services were held 7 August 1921 from the home of his parents.

Charles E. Murphy – Born 1897, a son of Dennis Herman and Lucy (Jones) Murphy. His funeral services were held 7 August 1921 from the Wind Ridge Presbyterian Church.

John Milton Paden – Born 1885, a son of Jesse Randolph Paden. Before entering the military John lived for several years with his aunt, Elizabeth Watters, in Waynesburg. John was fond of athletics and played on the Waynesburg College football team for several seasons.

Walter Burtrum Riggle – Born 30 October 1894, a son of Lewis & Nora Etta (Kuhn) Riggle. Walter attended the public schools of Aleppo and later attended high school in Wind Ridge, finishing his education at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. While in college he took an active part in athletics and was able to travel throughout the state with the football team. When not attending school he worked at intervals for the Wyoming Oil Company.

Lawrence Leslie Staggers – Born November 1896, a son of James Ellsworth & Amanda (McVay) Staggers, of Bristoria. Lawrence had undergone an operation for appendicitis and was told by his superior officer that he would be discharged and could go home. Lawrence begged to be permitted to stay, saying that he wanted to fight to the finish. His plea was granted and he continued on with his company. His funeral services were held 27 July 1921 with burial in the Staggers Cemetery on the old family farm in Jackson Township.

William Webster Throckmorton – Born 25 August 1897, a son of Thomas Morford & Annie (Webster) Throckmorton. He was educated in Waynesburg High School and attended Waynesburg College prior to enlistment. He was a member of the football and basketball teams as a star player. Though he survived July 29th his injuries placed him into hospital care where he contracted pneumonia and died just before being sent home 18 September 1918. William's is a particularly tragic story because of the inevitable delay of communication between Europe and the United States. On 26 September, days after his death, William’s family received a happy letter saying he was coming home for them to nurse back to health. Word of his death reported 10 October was supposed by his family to be an error. Confirmation of the sad news did not come until 17 October. A letter he sent home 30 April 1918 can be seen on his Memory Medallion.

Russell Karl Yoders – Born in 1899, a son of William Henry & Clemma (Durbin) Yoders. His funeral services were held 24 July 1921 from the First Methodist Episcopal Church.

Norman M. Zahniser – Born in 1894, a son of William S. & Ada M. (Alexander) Zahniser. He was a graduate of Waynesburg High School, attended Waynesburg College and was a student at State College when he enlisted in the U. S. military. He was prominent in athletics, being a star on the college and high school football, basketball and baseball teams.

(Originally published by Candice Buchanan in Greene Speak, July 2005. Updated July 2012 for

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Census - The Personal Public Record

(By Candice Buchanan)

The Census is a wonderful record revealing to researchers trivia about their ancestors every ten years of their lives. Censuses 1790 to 1940 are now accessible to the public, with one exception being 1890, which burned, almost completely, leaving one bothersome (sometimes maddening) blank spot in our decade by decade details.

Census records make a great foundation for further research by outlining where and with whom our relatives lived, in addition to details about birth, occupation, education, income and more. What is really exceptional about the Census though, is that it goes a step further - a step taken when the Census taker walked into our ancestors’ homes.

The Census asks for a particularly family-oriented set of data unlike most other records. By viewing household members and their individual details we gain insight into the day-to-day home operations, like which son or daughter cared for the aging parents; which aunt or uncle took in orphaned nieces and nephews; how many children could attend school vs. how many were needed to work the farm, and so on. Additionally, the Census has a certain lack of formality that allows a more personal element of every day family life to present itself. For example, misspellings or unusual variations of common names can clue us in to pronunciations or nicknames used at home. Educational and occupational information let us know who in the home could read and write, and what role each person played in household labor.

The tricky part of Census research can be simply finding who you are looking for. That personal touch and lack of formality that makes the Census so unique can also make it more challenging to search. Aside from the frequent spelling errors, there are always those ancestors who decided not to live where you expected them to be – and you are left with a whole nation of possibilities.

Advice to conducting a successful search of the Census can be reiterated to apply to almost any record genealogists consult. Most particularly, you have to keep an open mind and you must look at the original record. Be prepared to accept entries that are not exact and be sure to consider every possibility. Don’t ever assume that "this is not my family" because a name, age, birthplace, etc. is not just right. Many ancestors could not read or write and even if they could someone else often did the paperwork, such as the courthouse clerk, lawyer or, in this case, the Census taker.

Consider the source. There is no way to know who answered the Census taker’s questions when each house call was made. It could have been one of the eight children, Grandma who spoke broken English, or worse, a neighbor down the road. How many members of your household today could provide correctly spelled names and accurate birth days and places of everyone living in your home? Not to mention how many children Mom had given birth to and how many still lived, as asked in 1900 and 1910? Or how old Dad and Mom were when each was first married, as asked in 1930? Even if the head of the house was home to do the interview, it is impossible to know how meticulously he or she responded. Perhaps the family Bible was pulled for accuracy, or maybe the cow was milked between rushed answers.

Researchers seem particularly negligent about viewing the original when it comes to the Census because so many records have been transcribed and published for us. While such works are excellent aides and provide many research leads, they are not a replacement for the real thing.

Consider a researcher who was frustrated that George Cumberledge could not be located in 1810. A closer look revealed that Cumberledge had been misspelled and then mis-transcribed. A look at the original document shows "George COMBRIDGE" enumerated in Wayne Township, Greene County, Pennsylvania on page 15 (stamped). A popular 1976 publication, Pennsylvania 1810 Census Index, by Accelerated Indexing Systems, Inc. (AIS), shows him as "George CORNBRIDGE." Though otherwise correctly referenced by AIS, this combination of misspelling and mis-transcription made George challenging to find. It was necessary to take a more liberal look at the spelling possibilities and return to the real document to make an independent assessment. Sometimes a familiarity with local names and families can help to read a sloppy or unusual entry.

Similarly, I was having no luck exploring a name index for the family of Harriet Eldora (Mitchener) Baily in 1920. I tried searches for every potential member of the household with no result: soundex, various spellings, nicknames – nothing. Finally, I went to the original Census and scrolled page by page through Cumberland Township until a suspiciously similar family appeared under the Gwyne surname. Ultimately, the census taker made an error when recording this Baily household. Instead of writing Baily into the surname field, he continued to use his mark quoting the Gwyne surname from the previous neighbor's home. Consequently, the Baily family members are listed as Gwynes. To make matters worse the Gwyne surname, misspelled to begin with, was poorly written and has been transcribed in at least one interpretation as "Guyme."

Know that the Census record, like any other piece of evidence in your search, does not stand-alone to establish proof of your family history. Each fact should be compared with other records for support or contradiction. The Census is one of those important records to be included in your family history, however, and can offer a unique addition to your genealogical knowledge.

(Originally published by Candice Buchanan in Greene Speak, January 2007. Updated July 2012 for